The Bird-type drone is capable of making sharp turns

Close-up of a bird-shaped drone, blue for artificial feathered wings and tail that can be deformed (stretched and retracted). Image courtesy of Enrico Ajanic

Swiss scientists demonstrated a winged drone that can resemble a bird to make sharp turns and avoid obstacles in dense urban and forest environments. The study was published Nov. 25 in Communications Engineering.

While winged drones are aerodynamically and energetically more efficient than multicopter-driven drones, winged drones require more space to turn, limiting their use in dense environments such as cities.

To improve the turning performance of winged drones, Dario Floreano and colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne designed a drone inspired by birds. The drone is made of fiber-reinforced plastic, has a maximum wingspan of 1.5 meters and weighs 711 grams. It has two wings, a tail, similar to the appearance of a bird, with artificial feathers that can be tucked away and tilted. They conducted wind tunnel and flight tests to evaluate the impact of wing and tail movements on the drone’s rollable speed and required turning area.

Studies have found that drones can roll up to 4 times faster when tilting each wing at different angles, compared to when the wings are tilted at the same angle, but one side extends and the other is closed. By extending the wings and tail outward, the drone can turn with a radius of 4.9 meters, compared to 12.1 meters when the wing tail is closed. This suggests that the drone can make sharp turns, or enable it to fly in dense environments.

The researchers believe that the findings will lead to the development of new winged drones capable of flying long distances in both open and dense environments. (Source: China Science News Feng Lifei)

The drone makes a sharp turn near the ground Image courtesy of Enrico Ajanic

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